By Jesse Brooks
As part of Sickle Cell Awareness month, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, a vocalist in the Grammy Award-winning trio TLC and spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), is coming to Oakland’s Love Center Church, 10440 International Blvd., on Sunday, Sept. 5 at 4 p.m.
“This will be the kick off of this program that will target highly African American populated cities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the country where the disease is prevalent, said Watkins, who established “I Wanna Be Free,” a community service initiative and national public awareness campaign that targets youth between the ages of 12-18 who are afflicted by sickle cell anemia.
For African Americans, this is much more than a blood disease – sickle cell anemia has become a cultural, social issue and concern, occurring in about one out of every 500 African American births and 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births.
It is estimated that 70,000 to 100,000 people have sickle cell and that 2 million carry the trait that allows them to pass it on to offspring.
The disease causes red blood cells to change shape and become sticky, giving them the potential to tangle like coat hangers and clog blood vessels. This blockage, depending on where it occurs in the body, can cause tissue damage, pain and stroke. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe and vary widely from person to person.
Common symptoms include fatigue, paleness, jaundice, shortness of breath and pain in the body organs and joints. Without the proper care, sickle cell can lead to even more serious medical problems, such as damage to most organs, and ultimately, death.
That’s why it is important for people with the disease to receive consistent medical care throughout life and to work with their physicians on a proper treatment plan. There is no cure for sickle cell disease. Treatment is aimed at managing psychological, emotional and physical concerns and improving a person’s quality of life.
Youth with sickle cell anemia face self esteem issues connected to missed school days, limited social activities and ongoing emergency room and hospital visits.
Children’s Hospital Oakland has the country’s largest, most innovative sickle cell disease treatment and research programs. Celeste Germaine heads “Project Imagine,” sponsoring community events focusing on disparities in communities of color.
“After meeting with a group of young people that deal with the disease daily, I thought the right thing to do was to bring awareness back to the forefront,” said Germaine. “(We want) to have T-Boz’s campaign back to the Bay Area once corporate sponsorship has been obtained so we can set up testing sites in the nine Bay Area counties on the same day.”
Besides “T-Boz” Watkins, the Sept. 5 event at Love Center will feature gospel artist Eugene Cole, Jovan Watkins and Truth, Stabe Wilson and other surprise guests.
Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door. For tickets or information call (510) 978-6470 or (707) 704-9540.
Mark Curry’s name and image were used without his permission in the Newspaper advertisement for the Oakland Sickle Cell Event. Mr. Curry will not be appearing at the event as he has a conflicting engagement. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused Mr. Curry and his fans. Sincerely, Celeste Germaine and Cseneca Parker.